Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Signature of J.B. Doncyson, artist

Long, long ago, a man named J.B. Doncyson of Topeka, Kansas, signed his name, in elaborate fashion, inside this copy of 1898's Caleb West: Master Diver1, by Francis Hopkinson Smith, who also, it so happens, built the foundation of the Statue of Liberty. The book, published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company, features illustrations by Malcolm Fraser and Arthur I. Keller.

Perhaps those illustrations inspired the one-time owner of this volume.

It will come as no surprise that Doncyson had a fancy, artistic signature after you read this newspaper article about him that appeared in the October 30, 1915, issue of The Topeka State Journal:


Topeka Citizen Who Spends
Much Time in Art Work

Began to Make Drawings When
a School Boy.


Does the Illustrating for the
Masonic Lodges.

Has Begun to Receive Orders
From the East.

A Topeka man, an amateur, is so good an artist that he hardly has time to do anything else but make drawings. J.B. Doncyson, 909 West Tenth street, of the Scottish Rite temple, has been doing art work for the past ten years and now makes all the drawings used by the Masonic orders and other lodges of Topeka, to say nothing of a large amount of work done for his friends.

He started drawing while a boy in Topeka schools, back in the eighties. His teacher cuffed his ears several times for marking up his books with sketches but the habit was not broken and he became a prominent high school artist later. In 1893 his trip to the Chicago world's fair revealed to his youthful eyes some of the most priceless paintings in the world and young Doncyson attributes much of his later ability to viewing the masterpieces of Europe. He never has taken drawing lessons and depends for the correctness of his technique, perspective and proportion with his eye upon judgment alone.

"A man can't do good work and do it fast — that is outside of cartoon work," he said today at the Scottish Rite temple. "I work an average of twelve to fourteen hours on a picture that amounts to anything, but can dash off a comic sketch in half an hour. As brevity is the soul of wit, too many lines will ruin a funny picture."

His Cartoon Work.

He formerly did cartoon work for the State Journal, the Santa Fe, and two or three other Topeka concerns. The companies hired an amateur because he was doing as good as if not better work than professional artists in Kansas City.

In addition to his drawing, which takes nearly all his time, Mr. Doncyson is a secretary in the Scottish Rite temple. That is a man's job also as it necessitates taking care of $78,000 worth of costumes, feeding four or five hundred people every week or so at a banquet, and handling the immense amount of mail that comes in and goes out on regular business.

"We have so much mail that we have to use as complicated system of mailing as the Saturday Evening Post does," said Mr. Doncyson.

The reunion of the Masons in November has caused a great amount of publicity matter to be sent out. Mr. Doncyson has handled all of the art booklets and practically designed all of the them. In fact he has had so much experience and become so proficient that he does the work for Masonic valleys in the east.

1. Of the book, reviewer AJ wrote this on Goodreads in 2016: "This was the number one best seller in 1898. Despite the title the book is about everyone else besides Caleb West. Loosely based on the author's building of Race Rock Light House in NY. ... I would estimate that 80% of the book is NOT about Caleb West, master diver. It was a good period piece to read about about life in the 1870s."

Here's an excerpt from the book that I came upon while flipping through: "Mrs. Leroy selected a low camp-stool, resting her back against the railing, where the warm tones of the lamp fell upon her dainty figure. She was at her best to-night. Her prematurely gray hair, piled in fluffy waves upon her head and held in place by a long jewel-tipped pin, gave an indescribable softness and charm to the rosy tints of her skin. Her blue-gray eyes, now deep violet, flashed and dimmed under the moving shutters of the lids, as the light of her varying emotions stirred their depths."

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

50-year-old advertisement for Haggar slacks

This advertisement for Haggar slacks appears on the back cover of the souvenir guidebook for HemisFair '68, an official World's Fair that was held in San Antonio, Texas, from April 6 through October 6, 1968. The fair had as its primary legacy the introduction of the proto-H.R. Pufnstuf, then named Luther. (Which isn't nearly as bad as the 1893 Chicago fair's "legacy" being that H.H. Holmes was working nearby and attended the event with some of his eventual victims.)

While the particular style of slacks in the advertisement has perhaps gone out of style, Haggar has not. It was founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1926 by Lebanese immigrant (as the company website proudly points out) Joseph Marion Haggar Sr., rose to become the top brand of pants in America in 1970, and is still a robust clothing manufacturer today. It also has an eco-friendly line of clothes made from upcycled water bottles, and that certainly makes up for the fact that you can no longer get plaid Haggar slacks at your local Sears Target.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Old inscription and a lighthearted threat of missed turkey

The above inscription appears on the first page of The Sick-A-Bed Lady, an actual hardcover book that was published 107 years ago, in October 1911.

The book, by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott, is actual a collection of stories. It's not just one long novel about a lady who's sick in bed, because that might become ponderous quickly. The title page gives this fuller title (which clearly would not fit on the cover): The Sick-A-Bed Lady and Also Hickory Dock, The Very Tired Girl1, The Happy-Day, Something That Happened in October, The Amateur Lover, Heart of the City, The Pink Sash, Woman's Only Business.

The frontispiece, still protected by tissue paper, has the caption "That will help you remember where your mouth is," and I'll just leave it at that. The book is dedicated "To The Memory of Two Fathers."2

The last line of the book is "Across the young, tremulous, vibrant greensward I heard the throb-throb-throb of a man's feet — running." I think greensward is just a fancy word for lawn, and I'm not sure how it could be "tremulous."

Anyway, throb-throb-throb aside, the interesting part of this book is the aforementioned inscription, written in lovely cursive ink. It states:
It may be lots of fun to be a sick-abed Lady, but if you don't get well "P.D.Q." you'll miss the turkey.
P.D.Q. was a polite way of saying "Pretty Damn Quick" — immediately, directly, forthwith, pronto or straightaway. Does anyone out there still use it in 2018?

1. Possibly a prequel to The Sick-A-Bed Lady.
2. Possibly Greg Evigan and Paul Reiser.1

Secondary footnote
1. Do you think Paul Reiser got eaten by that xenomorph? Or do you reckon he talked his way out of it?

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Edward Gorey bookplate inside
Budd Schulberg novel

This nifty old Edward Gorey bookplate is affixed to the inside front cover of a 1950 hardcover edition of Budd Schulberg's The Disenchanted.1 The bookplate is copyright 1953 and thus is from the early period of Gorey's career, when he was about 28, and according to Wikipedia, living in Manhattan and working for the art department of Doubleday Anchor, illustrating book covers and sometimes adding interior illustrations.

These Gorey bookplates, from Antioch Publishing, are fairly collectible. This very afternoon, never-used originals are selling for $8.95 apiece on eBay. There's also — and this is the better deal — an eBay offer of the original box containing the Gorey bookplates, plus the last five bookplates, for $20 plus shipping.

As far of provenance of this bookplate, Thelma L. Kelley is a little too common of a name and not quite enough information to positively determine her identity. A quick Google search provided two reasonable possibilities right off the bat. Whoever is she was, though, she had great taste in bookplates.

To delve into previous posts about Gorey, start here.

1. Of the novel, James Hartley has this to say on Goodreads: "This is a book that deserves to be called a classic. Hunt it out if you´ve never heard of it; if you have any interest in drunken writers, the history and workings of Hollywood, the reality of being a writer, the hangover of success, hangovers in generally, or simply working with someone who is impossible to work with."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Saturday's postcard: Little Boy Blue, and Auntie Em is mad

This postcard is a companion, in two ways, to the "Pretty maids all in a row" postcard from September 2015. First off, the publisher appears to be identifiable only by the logo on the back, which features a raptor of some sort with a ribbon and some arrows (pictured at right). Second, the postcard features another short note from Auntie Em to Gladys.

The nursery rhyme on the front is Little Boy Blue, with this particular wording:

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn.
The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn.
Where's the little boy that tends the sheep?
Under the haycock, fast asleep.

This postcard was mailed from Brooklyn, New York, and postmarked on August 11, 1910, a day on which the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-3, behind a complete-game effort by George Lemuel "Long Bob" Ewing.

It was mailed to Mrs. Gladys Gorman, care of the McCann's Hotel in Highlands, New Jersey. The cursive message states:
Gladys Gorman
I'm mad at you, you never wrote me the Postal you promised me. Tell Auntie Mar little Johns papa did not see the man with the Boat as he has been very busy. But maybe we will take trip up for a day anyhow soon. Love to all & yourself from yours Lovingly, Auntie Em.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

From the readers: Sennen Cove, witchcraft and inspiration for a song

Esther's Field in Sennen Cove, Cornwall

Melissa Buron, who helped get Ruth Manning-Sanders' A Book of Mermaids back into print, sent me a recent email with the following information:
I was researching Ruth Manning-Sanders and I thought you would be interested to know that you can actually stay in one of the homes that she and her family lived in during the 1930s. She was a neighbor of the writer Mary Butts and is mentioned often in Mary's diary at the time. The home is called "Esther's Field" and you can see it here:
Indeed, the copyright for Manning-Sanders' 1938 novel Children by the Sea indicates that her address is Esther's Field, Sennen, Cornwall, England. So, yes, it's pretty amazing that one could now stay there for about £136 ($180) per night.

Here are some highlights from HomeAway's description of the dwelling:
Thatched farmhouse with large garden a few minutes' walk from a stunning beach.
Esther's Field is a stunning 17th-century granite house with thatched roof set into the hillside above the beautiful white sands of Sennen Cove with fantastic views of the beach and sea from almost every window. ... The house feels spacious and relaxing — you will enjoy complete peace and seclusion, while still being within walking distance of everything. The house sits in an acre of private garden with a large central lawn, an upper garden, a hidden garden and many little paths and areas to explore. You will find many exotic plants and a summer house full of garden furniture: tables, chairs, benches and steamer chairs so you can relax in every part of the garden. You can walk down to the beautiful white sands of the cove (lovely little shops and restaurants) in a few minutes: fabulous for swimmers and surfers too. The house also sits a minute from the coastal path so you can walk straight out of the house onto the breathtaking coastal paths and enjoy the wonderful coastal walks around Land's End and its many coves and beaches and spot some amazing birds, plants and animals. Esther's Field is beautiful in the spring and summer, and a cosy getaway in the winter months too with wood-fires and books to enjoy.
Here's one more picture, from the 50 that are on the HomeAway site:

* * *

Book cover: "From Witchcraft to World Health": Dad writes: "A pinch of clove, a toad’s ear, crushed worms, tomato seeds, vinegar. Bring to boil. Stir for 10 minutes. Put in a helium balloon and let it drift in the air until it breaks and drops like rain to cure the world. Witchcraft and save the world."

America, in a mystery snapshot: Wendyvee, who energizes the eclectic Roadside Wonders website, writes: "Most definitely a Buick Century AND you get bonus points for lodestar and sunkenariums. Winner, Winner, chicken dinner."

Notes, scribbles and doodles on the back of an old postcard: Alana Thevenet, who is mentioned in one of this post's footnotes, writes: "I am Alana Thevenet, the one you mention in your notes. William was Wilhelm F. Thevenet, who was born in 1870 in Wassergasse, Pforzheim, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. He was married to Helga Klara Ellonora Paulsen, who was born in 1868 in Kristiania, Akershus, Norway. If you would like more information, please let me know."

Note: I'm definitely in the process of trying to learn more from Alana. Stay tuned!

Mix tape memories: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "I was never hip to trends, so when my friend sent me a mix tape back in the 80's, I had no idea what it was all about. After listening to it, I still wasn't sure what I was supposed to get out of it. Was it a personal message to me? Was it his thoughts? At the risk of not sounding hip, I never did ask him."

From the readers: Treasured copy of "Andersen's Fairy Tales": Margaret writes: "I also have a copy of Andersen's Fairy Tales. #0546. The cover is different from yours. My book cover is mainly green with a centered oval picture of 2 children sleeping and a red outfitted 'elf' nearby. This book has 3 stories: 'The Little Mermaid', 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier', and 'The Snow Queen'. All translated from Danish by Carl Siewers. The publishers were Graham & Matlack. I totally agree with you on the dates of possible publishing. I think the fun of the research is as interesting if not more than some of these books. I did find an interesting tidbit online which made a lot of sense and added to my research about these publishers and many like them: 'This cheaply illustrated and printed book is a good example of how much borrowing went on among many of the publishers who brought out versions of many books in the decades after the copyright lapsed.' It explains why there are no dates in this book and the 'cheap' materials used. But, we have to remember, these books were also made for the folks who could not afford the pretty much more expense editions. So, yes they were treasures to the children who read these books and now the the many collectors."

Gravity gone wild, atomic nonsense at Mystery House in St. Augustine: Robert Robinson writes: "The was also a House of Mystery in Haines City, Florida, during that time frame."

Going back 45 years for a product that I'm not putting in the headline: Wendyvee writes: "When illustrators were taught to create fashion drawings, that used to be the prevalent 'hand style'. Feet are often just triangles with shoes. AND NOW YOU KNOW."

"Atomic Explosion and the End of All Things" By H.E.M. Snyder: Brenda writes: "Hi Chris, are you the author of the poem 'It Didn't Just Happen?' Someone submitted that poem for me to use in our church letter, and I want to get permission from the author to do so, but I’m not sure who wrote it? Was it you? If so, may I have permission to use it?"

I replied: "I am not the author. My best guess is that the author is the late H.E.M. Snyder, who was a pastor in York County, Pennsylvania, in the middle of the 20th century."

Advertising trade card for J.P. Julius piano store of York, Pa.: Joan writes: "Hey, we both get full custody of the ephemera. It's blogging open season. Seriously, this is very cool. I will make sure I add a reference in that Weaver post to this extra info. People are always asking me about them."

Postcard of "Wheatland" mailed 90 years ago: Wendyvee writes: "But I LOVE 'onery' people and cheap side show stuff!"

Creepy and dilapidated structures of the eastern United States, Part 1: Marc Lussier writes: "Hi Sir, I was looking for a photo of an old inn picture to use as an image to go along with a song I made and felt on your blog. Would you give me the permission to use it please. My name is Marc and I'm from Quรฉbec, Montrรฉal. Your website is super interesting by the way. I saved it to my favorite."

Permission granted. Hope the song turns out well!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Thank you, Norman Reedus
(Lost Corners of the Internet)

Norman Reedus, star of The Walking Dead, went out of his way this morning to do a really sweet thing for my daughter. Earlier this month, she had spinal fusion surgery to address severe scoliosis, and it's been rough recovery thus far, with precisely the ups and downs you might imagine would follow such a procedure. She's been a super trouper, courageous and hard-working, and has battled through the pain as the recovery has progressed.

But it's nice to get an extra boost here and there. And she got a huge one this morning when Reedus, her favorite actor by a country mile, gave her a shout-out on Twitter (shown above) and Instagram.

I bring this up not to crow, brag or engage in celebrity worship, but because — as I've mentioned often — I'm genuinely interested in how certain elements of our online culture, and specifically social media, will be preserved for the ages. This was A Moment for her. But it's not like she received an autograph in the mail or Davy Jones knocked on the front door to visit and pose for photographs with the whole bunch of us. Norman's nod to Sarah was an exchange that existed entirely in cyberspace.

I'm certain Sarah and other members of Generation Z will come up with their own preferred and innovative methods for preserving and "scrapbooking" the ephemeral digital moments that are important to them. This middle-aged guy, meanwhile, is just going to handle it as he always does, through blogging, screenshots and printouts.

Book cover: "The Iceberg Express"

  • Title: The Iceberg Express
  • Author: David Cory (1872-1966)
  • That name is familiar. Yes, Cory's Puss in Boots, Jr. In Fairyland was featured on Papergreat in September 2016.
  • Series: Little Journeys to Happyland (#3 of 5)
  • Illustrator: P.H. Webb
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, New York
  • Cover price: Unknown.
  • Publication year: 1922
  • Pages: 154
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Advertising material on dust jacket flap: Little Journeys to Happyland. Individual Colored Wrappers. Profusely Illustrated. Printed in large type — easy to read. For Children from 4 to 8 years. This series is unique in that it deals with unusual and exciting adventures on land and sea and in the air.
  • Is it "Profusely Illustrated"? No. That's a bit of an exaggeration.
  • First sentence: One bright morning in August little Mary Louise put on her hat and went trudging across the meadow to the beach.
  • What does Mary Louise discover? A mermaid.
  • Last sentences: Well, well, have we come to the end of the story, you and I, little reader? I'm sorry I've nothing more to tell you in this book, but listen — lean over to me and listen — I've written another book for the "Little Journeys to Happyland" series — it is called "The Wind Wagon." Isn't that a strange title? But I know you'll like it — yes, I'm sure you will. So don't forget. It will be published next year. Yours for a story, David Cory. The End.
  • Random sentence from middle: The opera house was guarded by a candy lion, and a fountain in the middle of the town spouted maple syrup.
  • Wait. Is this Hatchy Milatchy? No.
  • Goodreads review: In 2016, Ramona wrote: "Came across this original 1922 hardcover childrens book that my mom had as a child. Delightful little book that takes you back to simpler times — long before reading & using your imagination were taken over by sitting in front of the tv or playing video games."
  • Amazon review: In 2014, Searchtower wrote: "another old story, no gore no violence just imagination."
  • Other series advertised in this book: The Little Washingtons books by Lillian Elizabeth Roy and Tuck-Me-In Tales by Arthur Scott Bailey.

Bonus: From the endpapers
While the book itself is not "profusely illustrated", the endpapers are gorgeous. There are eight separate color illustrations — four in the front of the book and four in the back. Here is one of the illustrations from the front.